Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Poisonous Mushrooms: An Aura of Amanita

Amanita by Adelaide TyrolOne of our big collective cultural fears about nature involves poisonous plants. Our mothers implored us to NEVER put anything from the woods in our mouths, but in reality, you can sample most of what’s out there with relative impunity. Your taste buds will give you a good indication of edibility, and if you ignore them you might pay the price of some diarrhea and stomach cramping.

Put another way, the poison in most so-called poisonous plants is about as harmful as the thorns they might carry – not something you want to go out of your way to mess with, but nothing to make you put a child-proof fence around the rhubarb because you heard a rumor the leaves were poisonous. (They are in mass amounts, but at a high enough dose so is salt.) » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Paul Hetzler: In Praise Of A Messy Yard

western honeybeeOn my twice-monthly drive on Highway 416 between Prescott and Ottawa, I pass the sign for Kemptville, a town of about 3,500 which lies roughly 40 km north of the St. Lawrence. It has a rich history, and no doubt is a fine place to live, but one of these days I need to stop there to verify that Kemptville is in fact a village of surpassing tidiness. (It’s Exit 34 in case anyone wants to take some field notes and get back to me.)

Most of us would prefer not to live in totally unkempt surroundings, but Western culture may have taken sanitation a bit too far. Claims that cleanliness is next to godliness have yet to be proven by science, but research does indicate a neat, well-coiffed landscape is bad for bees and other pollinators. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Adirondack Amphibians: Spring Peepers in Autumn

spring peeper On calm, mild evenings in autumn, a familiar sound may be heard coming from a stand of trees close to an alder thicket or a woodland swamp. A crisp, one-note “peep” infrequently breaks the silence in these wooded settings at night and during the day when the air is unseasonably warm and moist.

This distinct call can perplex anyone who has visited a wetland in spring. Can it possibly be a spring peeper, known for producing the seasonal chorus of natural music after the soil thaws in April? Following a summer of silence, the male spring peeper redevelops an urge to announce its presence, this time in the area in which it may have spent the past several months.
» Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Adirondack Ecology: Wildlife, Wilderness and Dead Wood

Discussions regarding the ecological value of wilderness compared to an actively managed forest often centers around the health and well being of specific members of the wildlife community. While the flora and fauna that a tract of wilderness supports may be strikingly similar to that which occurs in periodically logged woodlands, the relative abundance of the various plants and animals contained in each is often quite different. In wilderness regions, there eventually develops a much higher concentration of those organisms whose lives are connected either directly or indirectly to the presence of dead wood. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Seeing Red: Adirondack Foliage Season

We need to figure out how to put Amazon in charge of delivering the weather in the future. Whatever service Ma Nature is using seems to be falling down on the job lately. I don’t believe she intended to give us a record-setting wet summer; I just think all the good weather probably got misplaced on a loading dock in Topeka, or something like that. The spate of mild sunny weather in mid-September, while very enjoyable, was clearly meant to be dispersed over the course of June and July to break up the nonstop rain, some of which was no doubt tagged for 2016. I’d be willing to pay a premium for timely delivery next year.

In addition to widespread euphoria, dusty cars, and dry laundry, another effect of all this sunshine is red leaves. This requires a bit of explanation, given that sunlight typically makes leaves green by activating chlorophyll. This verdant molecule at the center of the photosynthesis miracle is what makes the world go ’round. Some claim it is money, but they need a reality check (so to speak). Without chlorophyll the sole life on Earth would be bacteria, whereas without money we’d merely have to adopt a barter system. Given that chlorophyll and currency are both green, it’s easy to forgive the mistake. » Continue Reading.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Fog Descending On Swamp Maples

fog on maplesIn the Northern Forest, the edge of autumn feels like no other time of year. The cool nights and warm afternoons call mid-May to mind, but the dawn woods are quiet and splashed with yellow and red. As the days teeter between summer and fall, I wonder if they belong to either of these seasons or to a season all their own.

Although our four-season calendar makes perfect astronomical sense, its simplicity masks the constant change of the northern year. In a 1991 New York Times essay, W. D. Wetherell offered a more nuanced approach to classifying seasons, describing springtime in the Connecticut River Valley as a progression of four phases: “the start of Red Sox coverage in the newspapers; maple syrup season; the day the ice disappears on the lakes; [and] the smelt run.” But he also acknowledged the competing chronology of cabin fever, mud season, and black fly season. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Plague of Ticks: Scientists Search for Solutions

tick life cycleOn a hike this spring, we walked through a clear-cut area with tall grass and brambles. Afterwards, our pant legs were crawling with black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis), also known as deer ticks, the kind that carry Lyme disease. Scientists with the Vermont Department of Health recently examined over 2,000 ticks and found that 53% of black-legged ticks tested positive for Lyme disease. A small percentage of the ticks carried pathogens that cause anaplasmosis or babesiosis, two other tick-borne diseases that can make people gravely ill.

Understanding the two-year life cycle of the black-legged tick can help prevent Lyme disease. In the spring of the first year, tick larvae hatch from honey-colored eggs in the leaf litter. The six-legged larvae, about the size of a poppy seed, soon seek their first blood meal. The larvae may become infected with the bacterium that causes Lyme disease through this blood meal; it all depends on what kind of animal they find as a host. If it’s a white-footed mouse, they’re very likely to contract the Lyme spirochete. If it’s a chipmunk or shrew, they’re somewhat likely. If it’s a squirrel or a larger mammal, they probably won’t. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 18, 2017

A Celebration of Adirondack Moose

Moose At Helldiver Pond There are several creatures that serve as symbols of the rugged and majestic character of the Great North Woods, yet none is as fitting as the moose. When initially seen, a moose may be perceived as being quite ugly and an unusual choice to represent the beauty of the northern wilderness.

Its disproportionately long legs, awkward gait, protruding hump on its back above its shoulders, rather rough coat and odd looking facial features create an image that may not be very appealing at first glance. Yet, together these characteristics create a unique and overwhelming image to those lucky enough to see one of these giants in the wilds, and they help this massive mammal flourish in a sub-arctic region. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Michale Glennon: A Slow Loss of Northern Forest Icons

Bloomingdale Bog In our work, most studies last one to three years; we find a problem, a way to examine it, and we report our findings. Rarely do we have the chance to connect with the naturalists of old and observe just to observe.

In the bogs and cold forests of the Adirondacks, I have had the chance to do just that. In 2007, WCS was awarded a New York State Wildlife Grant to embark on a project that we as biologists rarely have the luxury of doing these days, and that is the old-fashioned collection of baseline data. This sort of work is important, but it is increasingly hard to convince funders of its importance.

We were not testing a hypothesis or exploring a cause-effect relationship; our aim was just to gather information on the distribution and abundance of a group of fairly specialized peatland-associated birds that most people are unaware of and fewer get a chance to see. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Cornell’s History of Protecting Adirondack Fisheries

2016 Cornell Adirondack Fisheries Research Program Boat CrewI recently wrote about the impacts of acid rain, which results from burning fossil fuels, on Adirondack lakes and streams. But, did you know that Cornell University has been a leader in efforts to safeguard natural fisheries within the Adirondacks and to protect them from the damaging effects of acid rain, invasive species, and climate change for well-over half-a-century?

In fact, Cornell’s cold-water fishery research has historically focused on the Adirondack region. And just last year, the New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University (CALS) established a new faculty fellowship in fisheries and aquatic sciences, named for the late (and extremely-well-respected) Professor of Fishery Biology, Dr. Dwight A. Webster; the educator who laid the groundwork for what is now the Adirondack Fishery Research Program (AFRP). » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Cat Ponds: A Brook Trout Story

Fall fingerling growth rateIn July 1950, I had my first fishing experience on a cold, spring-fed brook that meandered down from the hills near Great Barrington, Massachusetts. My parents and I had planned a break from the heat and crowding of our small Brooklyn apartment and would be staying for a week with their friends.

My eighth birthday was coming up in September, but I was presented with an early present before we left, a child’s fishing outfit that contained a stiff little metal rod and miniature reel, a selection of snelled hooks and split-shot sinkers, a pencil bobber, and some “flies,” which should have been used to adorn some lucky woman’s hat. All of it came packed in a metal tube with carrying handle, clearly stamped “Made in Occupied Japan.” I was delighted and couldn’t wait to use my new tackle!

» Continue Reading.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Emerald Ash Borer Confirmed in Northern New York

emerald ash borer photo courtesy DECThe New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that invasive pest emerald ash borer (EAB) has been found and confirmed for the first time in Franklin and St. Lawrence counties. DEC captured the insects in monitoring traps at the two locations.

DEC confirmed the specimens as adult EABs on August 25. The invasive pest was found within a few miles of the Canadian border and may represent an expansion of Canadian infestations into New York. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

DEC: Endangered Adirondack Round Whitefish Recovering

Round WhitefishThe New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that Round Whitefish may soon be taken off New York’s list of endangered species and reclassified as threatened.

Fisheries biologists recently netted 15 Round Whitefish in Bug Lake of Hamilton County near Inlet. Six of these fish were second generation after stocking.

This will be the third water with offspring found after stocking. The first two include Trout Pond of St. Lawrence County and Evergreen Lake of Herkimer County.  DEC chose Bug Lake for stocking because it is a cold and clean lake which has provided a high-quality fishery for brook trout and lake trout. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Early Adirondack Bear Hunting Seasons Start Soon

black bearEarly bear hunting seasons are about to begin across New York State. Hunting is generally permitted on Forest Preserve land in the Adirondack Park. Hunting accidents are rare, but hikers should wear bright colors and keep pets leashed as a precaution.

During the Early Bear Season, hunters may use a bow (with appropriate bowhunting eligibility), crossbow, muzzleloader, handgun, shotgun, or rifle (where allowed).  Because of the likelihood of warm weather, DEC is telling hunters they should be prepared to skin and cool dead bears as soon as possible to protect the quality of the meat. DEC suggests hunters skin and quarter the bear in the field, then pack out the meat in game bags to a waiting cooler of ice. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 4, 2017

Red-Backed Salamander Party Tricks

red backed salamanderI once heard of a biologist with a clever party trick: regardless of where or when a given party was taking place, he claimed that he could produce a wild salamander in 15 minutes or less, and more often than not, he delivered. I suspect he never tried this at any New Year’s Eve parties in northern Vermont, where salamanders are wintering well underground, and where the ground itself is buried under several feet of fresh powder. At the same time, I’d wager that much of his success was due to a single species: the red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus).

This small, slender salamander (also known as a “redback”) has disproportionately small legs and is often, though not always, distinguished by a rust-red stripe running the length of its back and tail. Redbacks spend their lives under logs and in deep underground burrows, dining on earthworms, ants, mites, and other small, subterranean delicacies. The females demonstrate remarkable maternal devotion, aggressively defending their eggs against predators for the full month until the young hatch out – a display of parental care that is quite rare among amphibians. » Continue Reading.


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